Painting a barn

We put new siding up on the barn this year, which means I needed to find some motivation to paint it. This took some serious inspiration searching on my part because I truly hate to paint. There is a very good reason I’m not a professional painter, other than the fact I absolutely suck at it….no wait, maybe that is the reason. DSCN3397.JPG

My dad was a professional painter for about a minute. He used to always tell me painting is 90% prep work. But of course I have zero patience for prep work and prefer to jump right into projects. Painting the barn  was no exception. I taped off the bare minimum and didn’t bother cleaning my work area first……a choice that would come back to haunt me.

I had barely touched the roller to the siding when a gust of wind blew up out of nowhere and pulled half of the tape off the wall. Dang it!! Well, that’s what happens when you put tape down a dirty surface, it doesn’t stick. I pushed it back down and started again only to have another gust come up and this time take all the tape off one wall. Of course when the tape came off the wall it fell into the paint tray and then blew around making an abstract paint design that would have made Picasso proud.

“Really??? Not funny. Not **** funny at all!” (***I might have ‘seasoned’ my statement with a few choice words that are not for the timid)hay

 

Great, I was screaming at the wind. If my new neighbors, who just moved in, had any doubts about how thin my grasp on sanity was (and let’s face it, why wouldn’t they?) I think I confirmed their suspicion in spades. In addition, I cringed as I realized that I had just screamed obscenities that would make most people blush. Did I mention the new neighbors have young children and are Christian? Don’t get me wrong, I’m Christian too, but they strike me as good Christians and I fall more into the ‘struggling Christian’ category. Great, now I was going to Hell for charring their young children’s ears. Could the day get any better?

I don’t know why I even ask these questions? It’s like a challenge to Mother Nature. About this time a huge gust of wind came up and blew the  loose hay and dirt that I had neglected to clean up into the paint tray, on to the wet siding and into the paint can. I stood there just stunned and could practically hear Dad cackling with laughter. His words rang in my ears, “painting is 90% prep work honey.”

“Yes, Dad I KNOW!!!!!”

Great, now I was yelling at my dead father. I’m just thankful at this point that neighbors didn’t call the authorities out to check on me.  My horse trainer has been telling me I talk too much while training my horse and I tell her I don’t. After yelling at the wind, my deceased father and the barn, I’m inclined to think she may be on to something.

Anyway, all this to say if you happen to stop by and notice the freshly painted barn and see the hay painted into the siding…..it’s a new form of barn decor. Totally intentional and trust me, it’ll be all the rage soon.  That’s my story and I’m sticking to it!

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Fruit Fly Wars

 

The farm house is under attack. I know I say this every year, but its true every year.  I also know I say that “this is the worst year ever for fruit flies”, but that’s also true. I swear each generation of fruit flies is learning from the previous ones and getting harder and harder to kill . They are getting more prolific and talented in finding new ways to torment me.

 

Some of you who follow our adventures on Facebook may remember during our first year on the farm a dear friend took pity on me (or got tired of hearing me whine) and bought me a fruit fly trap. It appeared to work well and when we used that and used boiling water in all the drains 2x a day we seemed to hold the enemy at bay.

 

Then the next year dear daughter and I had a contest. We made two fruit fly traps, which basically consisted of a glass bowl partially filled with bait and covered with plastic wrap that had a few holes punched into it. I filled mine with apple cider vinegar and she filled her trap with wine. They both did well and those were my weapons of mass fruit fly destruction for the year.

This year we are being completely overrun. I have removed all vegetable and fruit produce from the counters and keep everything in the fridge. We dump boiling water down the drains at least once a day and I have made my new and improved fruit fly traps. At first I filled them with my tried and true lure of vinegar but we didn’t catch anything. Not even one bugger! So I emptied them out and added wine….waa–laa now I’m in business. Apparently fruit flies prefer good red wine. I can’t say I blame them or that I’m surprised. I do too! You know things are getting bad if I’m willing to donate some of my wine to the cause. Anyway, even with these tools of war craft I am still losing the battle…..until I found a new weapon.

It happened quite by accident. I had gone to the sink to wash my hands. I had gotten my hands good and soapy when I reached my limit of frustration at the little buggers flying around my face. I waved my hands in front of my face to shoo them away (and hopefully keep them from flying into my mouth and up my nose) …… and the fruit flies stuck to my soapy hands! I immediately thought, “Ohhhhhh, this just got interesting!” and a new form of entertainment was formed.

 

Now, several times a day I soap up my hands well and then go wave them wildly through the kitchen, around the fruit fly traps, the fermented foods and sometimes, if I’m feeling particularly evil, I’ll leave a banana peel out just to tempt them. Hey, I never said I play fair. I play to win!

I am probably enjoying ‘bug killing soapy hands’ way more then I should. It’s a cheap form of entertainment for me and so incredibly satisfying. I got 7 at one time yesterday!! Today my limit was 4. Maybe I’m making headway in the war and as an added benefit my hands have never been cleaner!! One day in the future they will one day refer to me as “The Great Fruit Fly Killer”…… okay, so maybe I’m getting a bit carried away. Whatever, you’ve got to appreciate the simple pleasures right? Excuse me while I go wash my hands!

This heartbreaking, wild and take your breath away miraculous lifestyle

I cradled the baby bird in the palm of my hand, watching it struggle to take each breath.  It was so young that is didn’t even have fuzz over its entire body, just little tuffs of down in patches here and there.  It had all happened so suddenly. I came home and entered through the garage door. As I stepped onto the stoop getting ready to enter the house I heard a thump. I looked up to the swallow’s nest that they had built just above our doorway and saw nothing unusual. Then I looked down. I saw a tiny little blob wiggling on the ground. The little guy was so tiny he didn’t have his eyes open and couldn’t even stand up.  He was literally a wiggling blob. My breath caught in my throat. I looked up again, that was a long drop to the ground. Did it really fall all that way? Now that I thought back, I think something brushed my shoulder before I heard the noise, maybe I inadvertently broke its fall. Or maybe my mind was just trying desperately to make sense of this situation.

baby bird.JPGBut now came the dilemma. What do I do? Do I let nature take its course? Or do I intervene and try to help? If I intervene what should I do, try to place it back in the nest or try to raise it myself?  I think the best case scenario would be to put him back in his nest but there was no way I could get up there myself.  The swallows had built their nest in the highest peak of our garage and it had a veritable maze of support beams, and trusses surrounding it.  As for nature, well, I understand that these things happen but I also couldn’t let my dogs act as nature’s enforcers in the matter. I closed up the garage and scooped the little guy up into a carton and called Hubs. He informed me he would pull out the big extension ladder when he got home and see if he could get it back in the nest. Whew, at least we now had a game plan. Hopefully the little guy could hang on till Hubs got home.

This is the part of farming that I struggled with regularly. I understand on a cerebral level that things happen. There are two sides to every situation, life and death, yin and yang, light and darkness. However, that knowledge does nothing to comfort my  tender heart when these all too frequent situations arise.  I’ve met many people over the course of the years that say they would love to live on a farm, but they acknowledge that they could never face the harshness of daily farm life. I have no response to these people because in truth, farm life is harsh and unforgiving. You can find yourself begging, bartering and/or praying when you watch a new born baby goat struggle to survive. You can become bitter or depressed when you sit holding that same baby goat, or cow, or pig as you  then slowly watch them give up the fight.  Farming is hard, not just the amount of work or the long hours, it is emotionally taxing. There is no arguing that fact.  However, as I mentioned before, there is another side to this tale. Just as there is darkness there is light. Farming also allows me to witness the beautiful birth of baby goats. I get to see them stumble to take their first steps to find mom so they can nurse. I get to see their playful antics as they bound across the pasture as if attached to springs. I am privileged to have a parade of wildlife that wanders through our property, everything from deer, coyote, rabbits and even an occasional bear.  I get to see the first bit of green as the garden springs to life and taste the sweetest and freshest vegetables available when it’s time to harvest. These are gifts.

One of the most important things I have learned from living on a farm is that to survive the hard stuff you have to cherish the gifts.  In farm life, no in ANY life, you will have two sides and you must  appreciate both to live life to the fullest. To focus on the hard stuff would break me. I would easily become depressed, bitter and overwhelmed by the sheer sadness.  On the other hand to focus only on the blessings would make light of the struggles and feel disrespectful to the animals in our care that didn’t make it. So, for me farming, and life, is about finding balance. Learning to weep during the difficult times and then pick myself back up and appreciate the beauty of this heartbreaking, wild and take your breath away miraculous lifestyle we chose.  It’s not easy, but for us it’s the only choice.

Edited to add: Hubs managed to climb up and put the baby bird back in the nest and this morning momma bird was back and caring for it. ❤ Happy endings.

Noxious and Poisonous Weeds

It’s that time of year again, the time when I need to get out to the do some pasture management.  I try to go walk the pastures at the beginning of spring and again partway through summer to pull any noxious or poisonous weeds. Ok so technically spring started months ago, but as usual I’m playing catch up.

This year my biggest foe is the foxglove. It’s popping up everywhere! We have the tansy pretty much under control but the foxglove decided I needed another challenge in my life. Both of these plants are considered toxic, but to be honest I’ve seen the goats nibble on them and they’re still kicking. Now before I start getting hate mail, let me say I do my best to pull the poisonous plants but am I going to get all of them? No. Not even close. I can however pull them before the foxglove seeds and make sure that it’s not the most prevalent thing growing in my pasture. My goats mostly avoid the toxic plants but I see no reason to make it easy for them. If the goats really want to eat it they’re going to have to hunt for it.

karma weeding-1

Years ago I took a master goat class and I remember some guy saying he didn’t worry about poisonous plants because goats could tell what was poisonous and what wasn’t. I listened to this in disbelief as he slurped down his diet soda and munched on his Cheetos. Dude, we’re supposed to be the enlightened species and most people don’t eat avoid stuff that’s bad for us but you expect the goats to do better?

Finally, after working in the pasture for a few hours, I went back out to battle the blackberries. I get lots of people messaging me saying to let the goats eat the blackberries and I wish I could. Our little farm backs up to 3500+ acres of forest and until I get the perimeter fence up, letting the goats loose to chow down on blackberries is just not a good idea if I want to get them back in the pasture at any point in the near future. So, until the fencing is done I will continue to battle blackberries by hand and occasionally pull out a goat or two to help. Karma is a favorite for this because she’s convinced she’s really a dog and follows me around the farm as if she had an invisible leash connecting us. Which occasionally makes the other ‘real dogs’ a bit jealous. But that’s a tail (pun intended) for another day.

murphy wanting attention-1

Murphy must have felt that Karma was getting a bit too much of my attention.

Motherhood and Goats

Viney headshotWe’re under attack from the blackberry bushes. No, that’s not a metaphor, nor am I being overly dramatic. They are truly trying to take over. They’re encroaching into the yard, across the driveway and slowly but surely gaining ground toward the house. I dream about them at night. More like nightmares really. That one day we’ll wake up and find that they’ve completely encompass the house and we’ll become prisoners in a blackberry vine cell. It’s not pretty.

Yesterday while I was out watering and weeding the kitchen herb bed and flowers I decided to pull out a goat or two to help with the blackberry problem. After all I have goats, they view blackberry leaves as a form of goatie crack cocaine. I figured it’s a treat for them and saves me some work. Win-win!

I pulled out a couple girls and Murphy laid down close by to keep an eye on them (I’m not sure if he’s guarding them or keeping them under surveillance because he views them as suspicious) and I went back to weeding . It was during this perfect moment with the sun shining brightly, a slight breeze that floated over the skin and the buzz of fat, lazy bumble bees that I had a deep bonding moment with my goat, Viney.

She had wandered behind the shed, out of view from the rest of the goats in the pasture. Personally, I think she was hiding from her kids. They were yelling to her and she was quietly ignoring them as she munched away contently on her blackberry bushes. Watching this I immediately flashed back in my memory to a time when my kids were small and I would steal downstairs while they were playing and sneak a bite or two of the hidden “good” chocolate. I think I had the same content look on my face as Viney did munching on those blackberry leaves. As I was thinking about this Viney glanced over at me and our eyes met. Just then I connected with her on a level I never thought possible. We were both moms who hid from our kids while we raided the secret stash. It was a profoundly bonding moment…..and then she went after my roses and I had to chase her away from the flower beds pretty much killing the moment.  But for that brief moment we connected as only mothers can. Sharing the struggle of deep love for our children…..and the desire not to share our snacks. Motherhood really is a sisterhood that stretches across all boundaries.

 

Goat Feeders, Mosquitoes and Other Life Questions

Ramblings from the farm:

Well it’s day two of unemployment and its started with a bang. We’ve been exploring new ways to feed the bucks because a) they are so incredibly wasteful (I’m pretty sure that’s a male gene thing) and b) whenever we’ve tried to modify their feeder they’ve managed to get their head stuck and yell pitifully until we rescue them (again, I’m pretty sure it’s a male gene thing).

The most recent modification to their feeder apparently did not meet with their approval. I went out this morning to feed and found the feeder tipped over on its side and pushed up against the gate. Did I mention Crack Shot was shoved in between the gate and the feeder and was sweetly calling to me? That’s right the buck who normally wants to kill me was suddenly being loving. That alone was enough to freak me out.

I tried every which way to reach in and push, pull or manhandle the feeder out of the way, concerned that poor Crack Shot was stuck. Yes, I’m embarrassed to admit it took me a good 5-10 minutes of struggling with the feeder, all the while battling the million and one mosquitoes that were dive bombing my head, before I realized…..HE’S A GOAT, for goodness sakes if he really wanted to move he would climb over it, because …….HE’S A GOAT! I decided to test this theory by chucking a compact flake of hay over my head into the center of the pen and sure enough he jumped over the feeder in one bound and ran to eat. *sigh* Sometimes, I’m a little slow.

I managed to pry the gate open far enough to squeeze through and set the feeder upright. I then rescued the hay off the ground (don’t judge, that stuff’s like gold!) and put it into the feeder. Ok, all was right in the world again. Now off to feed the girls.

As I was feeding the girls I heard a giant crash and found the boys had tipped their feeder again! Did I mention they really don’t like the new modifications to their feeder? They aren’t shy in expressing themselves either. This time to make things a little more interesting Crack Shot climbed inside the feeder. Obviously he felt I needed more of a challenge.  Somehow, I managed to coax, cuss and prod him into leaving his new found food fort and righted the feeder AGAIN.

At this point I decided I needed to return to the house and have my first cup of coffee. Clearly I was in a battle of wits with the goats and it wasn’t going well for me. I needed reinforcements in the form of caffeine.

So here I sit, sipping my coffee and pondering life’s great questions, like the best way to feed a goat without all the waste and why God created mosquitoes. While these are great questions and worthy of contemplation, I suppose I better get to work. On the agenda this week is fixing up our old horse trailer.

trailer after bath

I started off pressure washing it to knock off as much dirt and rust as I could. It did okay but there was still a lot left to do. Next came sand blasting. But our sand blaster just wasn’t a up to such a large project. Hmmmm, maybe a grinding wheel? Except we couldn’t find our grinding wheel. *sigh* on to Plan D. I’m headed out to start sanding the trailer. Between the mosquitoes, the hard labor and getting sand and paint grit in places I’m pretty sure the Lord never intended, I’ve got to admit I’m not looking forward to the task. But tackling projects with what we have on hand is how we roll on this farm. Besides after I finish the sanding I get to play with Bondo. A new farm skill to add to my farm resume.

 

Until next time my farm friends.

M~

Ground Hogs and Other Spring Predictors’

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERASpring is officially here. I knew it was on its way despite Mother Nature doing her best to convince me otherwise. Spring is a usually looked forward to by most people but to a farmer it’s a major event . Some people use the traditional ground hog to predict if we’ll get any early spring, some watch for animals that seem to lose their winter coat early or listen for the first song from the frogs. I have an early prediction system too.   It’s more reliable than any ground hog. It’s my sickness. Yes I have a spring sickness and every year a few weeks just prior to spring’s arrival my ‘illness’ presents itself.  Some people herald spring with hay fever and allergies, others with March Madness, me? I get spring cleaning fever.  Yes, I said it. Spring cleaning fever.

Every weekend I clean my house, not because I particularly enjoy cleaning. In fact, to be quite frank, it’s one of my least favorite things to do. However, I have heard far too many people label farmers as being filthy to want to contribute to the ugly stereotype. I remember once inviting someone over to eat and having them make a joke asking if they would have to ‘sweep the chickens off the table so they could sit down to eat.”I’m sure they thought they were being funny. I was not amused. With that being said, I am in no way a neat freak and anyone who has ever visited my house can attest to that fact. I just make sure to clean up once a week and try to keep the dog hair and dust bunnies from taking over in our sleep.

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA

So I knew spring was on its way a few weeks ago when I was dragging myself through my weekly cleaning and felt the sudden compulsion to climb under the sink and take out the P trap and clean it. I mean it gets filled up with hair and pipe gunk too and probably should be cleaned at some point right? I started the process and when Hubs walked by and observed me testing out my non-existent plumbing skills by approaching the project with the same trepidation that an explosives expert might approach a bomb, he decided to help me out. Whatever, as long as it got done, was what mattered to me. Strangely enough I didn’t question or find anything odd about my sudden desire to scrub the bathroom pipes from the inside out.

Then a week or so later I found myself scrubbing the baseboards throughout the house and mopping the basement stairs. Mopping, not sweeping, but mopping and with a bleach solution to make sure they were good and clean, the basement stairs. Yes, that’s right, I sanitized my basement steps. (I’m so ashamed)

Today, I found myself bleaching and scrubbing the grout lines in my bathroom floors and it finally occurred to me that my spring sickness is out of control. Unlike allergies there is no pill I can take to give me some relief, I just have to suffer through it. After I finished the bathroom floors I happened to notice that the grout through the kitchen, laundry room and halls all needed some attention. God help me! This is a cry for help to my friends. I’m obviously in desperate need for an intervention to save me from this behavior.

On a positive note, at least spring is here and the weather is bound to start getting better. Hopefully I’ll get to be outside more and won’t even notice the floors…….or the overflowing file cabinet.